Citi notches up profits in third quarter

US BANK Citigroup yesterday gave the sector a much-needed fillip, as it beat Wall Street expectations with a year-on-year surge in third quarter net profits to $2.2bn ($1.4bn).

Citi’s third consecutive quarterly operating profit – which translated into earnings of seven cents per share – was mainly due to declining provisions for credit losses, benefits and claims, which fell to $5.9bn, the lowest level in over three years.

The results were also boosted by the regional consumer banking division, which saw earnings rise five per cent on the previous quarter due to strength in the Latin America and North America regions.

However, overall third quarter revenue declined by six per cent to $20.7bn and net income fell by a fifth when compared to the prior quarter, due to a one-off $800m pre-tax loss on the sale of the Student Loan Corporation and weakness in the securities and banking division, where fixed income markets trading slumped.

There was some positive news for the investment banking division, which Citi said had recorded “significantly higher” advisory revenues from increased corporate activity and strong debt underwriting revenues.

Vikram Pandit, the chief executive of Citi, which is still over 12 per cent owned by the US taxpayer, said: “Achieving our third straight quarter of positive operating earnings is continued evidence that we are successfully executing our strategy and we believe we have put in place all the elements for continued profitability.”

Citi’s results – which came after JP Morgan Chase last week also beat expectations with a $4.4bn net income haul – encouraged investors ahead of the rest of the US banking sector reporting results this week.

Today sees figures out from Bank of America, Bank of New York Mellon, Goldman Sachs and State Street, while Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo will report later in the week.

Analysts had slashed their forecasts for the banks’ earnings over the past week as concerns over the depressed trading environment and the housing foreclosure crisis in the US weighed on expectations.